Child Health and Development

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To reach their full potential, children need high-quality health care and services—especially in life’s early years. Health promotion, safety, disease prevention, and early identification and treatment during these earliest years lay the foundation for healthy development.

Mounting evidence that health during childhood sets the stage for adult health creates an important ethical, social, and economic imperative to ensure that all children are as healthy as they can be. Healthy children are more likely to become healthy adults. FPG's scientists study many aspects of child health and development—from prenatal health to infant brain development to stress management in adolescents.

Featured FPG News Story

Recognizing the underrepresentation in research studies of young children and families living in rural poverty, a group of scholars―including some at FPG―created the Family Life Project (FLP). This multidisciplinary longitudinal study used an epidemiologic sampling frame to recruit a representative sample of every baby born in one of six poor rural counties in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Featured Person

Sabrina Zadrozny, PhD, is a statistician investigator and the Data Management and Analysis Core Director here at FPG. She is an interdisciplinary epidemiologist, with training in longitudinal research methods, causal inference, infectious disease epidemiology, and reproductive, pediatric, and perinatal epidemiology.

Featured Project

An FPG study seeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI) in helping grade 1 struggling readers make substantial gains in reading during one school year. It extends prior TRI studies by conducting an independent external evaluation of the TRI, testing long-term impacts for struggling readers into grade 3, and examining teachers' sustained impacts for three years.

Current Projects

The current study examines the link between poverty and executive functions (cognitive processes that facilitate learning, self-monitoring, and decision making) which are known to undergo rapid developmental change during the first years of life.
This project will develop an African-centered, culturally responsive practice guide with specific strategies, exemplars, and materials with connected professional learning modules to guide effective implementation. The ultimate and long-term goal is to increase Black children’s social, cognitive, and emotional skills (e.g., racial identity, engagement, learning motivation, regulation), leading to strong academic and social competence and school success.
This replication study seeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI, formerly called Targeted Reading Intervention) in helping grade 1 struggling readers make substantial gains in reading during one school year. It extends prior TRI studies by conducting an independent external evaluation of the TRI, testing long-term impacts for struggling readers into grade 3, and examining teachers’ sustained impacts for three years.
Through collaboration with national, state and local coalitions and organizations, the Equity Research Action Coalition will identify, track and align strategies to strengthen the focus on protecting, promoting, and preserving the well being, health, wealth, access and experiences of Black families and their families through anti-racist and cultural wealth policy making framework and communication.
This project will support a cohort of place-based, cross-sector educational collaboratives ("myFutureNC network") across the state to develop model programs that significantly increase the number of students successfully pursuing post-secondary education and entering the workforce. This pilot aligns with the state's goal of having 2 million individuals between the ages of 25 and 44 with a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030.
TRI staff will create and present a series of five caregiver education workshops, which are designed to build knowledge and skills in the science of reading, in five locations across the Triangle.
This project leverages and builds upon an existing longitudinal cohort to propose hypotheses that investigate the ways in which early life stress alters well-specified developmental processes to adversely affect neurodevelopment in childhood and increase risk for obesity and other health outcomes. It extends our prior data collection both retrospectively and prospectively in order to amplify and enhance our focus on adverse exposures and health and behavior outcomes.
The purpose of this project is to understand the early development trajectories in both poor and non-poor young children growing up in rural areas characterized by high poverty. An interdisciplinary team of investigators has been following children from birth with measurement of child, family, and school functioning, observed mother and father sensitivity and language input in the home setting, observed quality of instruction in child care and elementary school, characteristics of the community, and biomarkers of child and maternal stress.
The purpose of this collaboration with Boston University is to develop and disseminate various products focused on the effects of racism during infancy through early childhood (birth to age 5) for racially marginalized children and families, specifically those that are Black, Latine, Indigenous, or Asian.
We are examining psychiatric and health outcomes in a 5-year follow-up of 200 well-characterized, very high-risk, maltreated and non-maltreated children. This is an ideal study in which to examine patterns of stability and change in the regulation of stress-sensitive genes over time.
The purpose of this project is to establish the psychometric feature and instrument useability of a practitioner-administered observer impression scale assessment of preschool children’s peer-related social competence. The ratings for this scale are based on three 5-minute observations of preschool children engaging in social interaction with their peers. The information may be used for general assessment for all children, screening for children who may need support in establishing positive peer social competence, and progress monitoring. Phase 1 of this project will focus on content validity, cultural and ethnic appropriateness of items, and instrumentation that would allow for online data collection. Phase 2 of the project will involve large-scale data collection that will allow instrument modification, confirmatory factor analysis, and evaluation of useability. Phase 3 of the project will examine criterion-related validity, utility as a progress monitoring tool, interactions of child and rater demographic characteristics, and scalability. At the end of this project, a fully developed, psychometrically verified, and practical assessment of preschool children’s peer social competence, suitable for scaling up for program use, will be available to early childhood programs and practitioners.
The aim of this research project is to investigate the relationships among housing stability, health and well-being, and climate change vulnerability. Findings will be shared with our community-both with people who experience homelessness and housing instability and with organizations and agencies working to serve those populations. The goal is that the research findings will advance racial and economic justice, not just in Orange and Durham Counties, but throughout the United States. As a nonprofit working toward systems change, these findings will influence the day-to-day programmatic work that CEF does and help to influence how CEF can use its person-centered approach while simultaneously steering members toward specific measures that increase stability.
The JOIN for ME program is a pediatric weight management intervention that can be delivered in community settings, with potential for national dissemination. We will package the JOIN for ME program to increase acceptability and feasibility for delivery in low-income communities and test implementation in two novel settings: the housing authority and the patient-centered medical home. The revised JOIN for ME package will be tested in a rigorous implementation study.
The Frank Porter Graham Program on Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Families is a suite of programs related to self-compassion in families and schools. Our mission is to bring specialized self-compassion training to teens, pre-teens, children, parents, educators, and all adults who traverse the lives of youth, with the ultimate goal of creating a community embued with greater compassion for ourselves and others.
The RI-Asthma Integrated Response (RI-AIR) Asthma Care Implementation Program (ACIP) is a comprehensive system of identification, screening, and intervention for pediatric asthma. We aim to demonstrate that RI-AIR ACIP is a replicable, evidence-based, and cost-saving model that improves asthma outcomes for children at most risk, and can be disseminated to other urban communities to address asthma disparities.
This project will train school staff who support students using pull-out reading instruction and intervention (e.g., “educators” such as reading specialists, paraeducators, instructional facilitators, tutors) to use Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI, formerly called Targeted Reading Intervention) with two adaptations: 1) a digital version of the traditionally “paper and pencil” intervention (“TRI app”) in a 2) high dosage model whereby educators provide daily reading support to multiple K-3 students not yet reading on grade level.
As part of this developmental evaluation, Phase 2 of this project will focus on: (a) evaluating the joint development of curriculum materials/resources; (b) drafting short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes for intended stakeholder groups (parent educators, parents, children); (c) developing an implementation plan to pilot the full implementation; and (d) designing measures to evaluate the development of curriculum materials/resources, understand the content being developed, and gather insights from users to design evaluation in Phase 3.
The current study will be the first to examine the influence of early toxic stress, including the distal effects of living in poverty as well as the proximal factors of negative parenting and household chaos, on the development of gut microbiome diversity and maturity across 15, 24, 26, and 54 months.